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Back pain is a serious problem globally. It’s estimated that about 31 million Americans experience backaches at any given time and 50% of workers admit to having significant back pain symptoms every year. There are many causes of back pain, but most cases are mechanical in nature — meaning not caused by serious conditions such as inflammatory arthritis, disc herniation, infection or cancer. For mechanical back pain, Understanding the cause and severity of your backache is crucial because it determines the treatment protocols you should follow.

Give it time. Most achy backs caused by overwork or minor accidents (such as slip and falls) resolve on their own with a few days or so. As such, if the pain isn’t severe, have some patience and the likelihood of your backache going away is actually pretty good with or without any kind of treatment.

  • Severe pain combined with numbness or tingling in the legs is often a sign of a serious back injury.
  • It’s important to seek professional help if your back pain also involves trouble urinating, fever or unintentional weight loss.

Schedule an appointment with your doctor. If you develop back pain that won’t go away after a few days of taking it easy, then schedule an appointment with doctor.

Understand the cause of your backache. Make sure you get the doctor to clearly explain the diagnosis, especially the cause (if possible), and provide you with various treatment options for your condition. Only the most serious causes of back pain require surgical intervention, which is quite rare. Sometimes mild backaches resolve on their own within a few days, but for more debilitating back pain, treatment is recommended because it will likely reduce the duration of the pain and lower the risk of a recurrent (chronic) problem.

  • Pain from mechanical back pain can be severe, but it doesn’t involve high fevers, rapid weight loss, bladder / bowel problems or loss of leg function, which are all signs of something more serious.
  • Common causes of backache include poor posture, improper lifting technique, obesity, sedentary lifestyle and mild trauma from athletic activities.

Take an Epsom salt bath. Muscle strains (or pulls) are the most common cause of backaches. The para-spinal muscles of the lower back are thick and powerful, but they become susceptible to injury when they get chilled, dehydrated or overworked. Soaking your entire back and legs in a warm Epsom salt bath can significantly reduce pain, swelling and muscle tension. The magnesium in the salt helps the muscle fibers relax and heal, which sometimes provides surprisingly quick pain relief.

  • Make sure the salt bath isn’t too hot because otherwise it will pull water from your body, dehydrate your muscles and increase the risk of further damage.
  • Backaches from muscle strains are usually described as dull and achy in nature and are not particularly debilitating. Some range of motion is restricted, but walking, sitting and sleeping are not usually impaired.

A strained muscle occurs when individual muscle fibers are taken beyond their tensile limits and subsequently tear, which leads to pain, inflammation and some degree of guarding (muscle spasm in attempts to prevent further damage). A deep tissue massage is helpful for mild-to-moderate strains because it reduces muscle spasm, combats inflammation and promotes relaxation. Start with a 30 minute massage, focusing on your low back and hips. Always drink lots of water immediately following a massage in order to flush inflammatory by-products, lactic acid and toxins from your body. Failure to do so might cause a headache or mild nausea.

  • As an alternative to massage therapy, position a tennis ball underneath your body, near your backache. Roll on the ball slowly until the pain subsides.

Talk to your doctor about exercise. A muscle strain will improve faster if you begin gentle stretching and strengthening exercises as early as possible. Make sure you always perform exercises within a pain-free range of motion. If you have an acute muscle strain (an injury that occurred recently), beginning a gentle aerobic exercise program such as walking will be beneficial. If you feel pain at any time during your exercise, stop and consult your doctor.

Treating Joint Sprains

Reduce your activity level. The first step is rest — stop all exacerbating activity in order to address your injury, at least for a few days or so. More rest (a few weeks) may be needed depending on the severity of your back injury. For a backache, laying on your back with your knees bent and legs slightly elevated is a good idea because it can take the pressure off the low back joints and provide some pain relief.

  • Laying on your back for hours at a time is not a good idea, either. Get up at least once an hour to move around even a little bit, and try going for a leisurely walk every day.
  • Avoid excessive sitting (more than 30 minutes at a time) because it puts more pressure on the low back joints and may further irritate them.

Apply ice. Cold therapy (ice wrapped in a thin towel or frozen gel packs) should be applied to the injury as soon as possible in order to stop reduce inflammation. Ice should be applied for 10 – 15 minutes every hour, then reduce the frequency as the pain and swelling subside. Compressing the ice against your back will help to further combat the inflammation.

  • Backaches from joint sprains are usually described as sharp and shooting in nature and they tend to be fairly debilitating. Most range of motion in the affected area is lost, and walking, sitting and sleeping are noticeably impaired.
  • People with spinal joint sprains usually walk hunched over and to the side because the muscles surrounding the affected joints quickly spasm to “guard” the injury.

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